The following is a post from Rachel Greenough, 107IST member and Rose City Riveters Steering Committee member.
Am I happy the Timbers are playing for a cup at home? I sincerely wish that weren’t a complicated question.
I’m a Thorns supporter through and through, but I love when the Timbers win. My friends have given their blood, sweat, and tears to support this team, and they deserve moments like this.
Except this isn’t really that moment, is it? For anyone paying attention to the broader soccer landscape in Portland or the U.S., this isn’t really that moment we’ve been waiting for. This moment is much, MUCH more complicated.
I wasn’t able to watch the game or get updates on Saturday, so I checked in anxiously around the time of the final whistle, expecting to feel elated if the Timbers had won. Instead, I felt sadness.
I felt sad because it felt like this win had come at the expense of NWSL players, the expense of our protest, the expense of momentum in the movement for more transparency. That’s not the fault of Timbers players (though seriously, where have those voices been these past two months?), nor is it the fault of supporters who are understandably thrilled to be here at the end of this season. But it sucks.
It hurt so badly watching the Thorns lose in semifinals. It hurt so badly every time we watched them gut it out the final month of the season before that. I made the choice to show my caring through being there, screaming, holding signs and waving flags — but I know others who couldn’t bring themselves to do that. We all took our stands where we could. We knew how much the team was hurting. Their world (and league and club) had been rocked. That they managed to pull through it with some semblance of unity was incredible.
This semifinal loss was heart-wrenching in a manner that was even deeper than the infamous 2016 end to the season. Worse than 6-0 to the Courage in 2019. Because this loss spoke of deeper pain and deeper hurt. I don’t claim to speak for any players, but as a supporter my heart hurt for the players on the field as they played through the end of this season. Even more, it hurt for those who weren’t there. For Mana Shim and Sinead Farelly and Kaiya McCullough and everyone else — identified or anonymous — who has left this league over the years due to abuse and harassment.
It bears saying again. Paul Riley abused players. He used sexual coercion and harassment to make their lives living hell. He is an asshole and an abuser.
The club’s current owner, the current GM of the Portland Timbers, and others in the highest positions of power knew that this occurred. No, they didn’t know everything, but they knew enough to know that Riley no longer deserved to work here. They knew enough to know that they should look into it further. But they let him walk away and take the next job that came along in the league. They congratulated him. They maintained those relationships. Because that is what powerful men do for each other all the damn time.
The Thorns have a new GM and a new coach. I am excited about those hires. I love this team. But this is not over as long as these men are in charge and as long as they maintain an absolute brick wall of silence around the club — BOTH clubs. As long as they are the names and faces listed as being the top of the hierarchy on timbers dot com (which is also the website for the Thorns. Weird, right?). As long as the Timbers win and they coerce everyone into renewing season tickets on their timeline. As long as they sit silently and hold all the power, while women and non-binary players are playing in a league that has systematically disempowered them from the start.
I’m just extremely tired of men winning everything and women and non-binary players giving up their dreams. So am I being overly sensitive, feeling sad as I watch the end of a remarkable Timbers season? Probably. But my heart is broken and I am tired and I just wanted to say it out loud.